Change is good, they say. And hard. And even harder when it doesn’t feel nearly as appealing as it did back in August, when Legion and its inherent changes to WoW were firstly discussed. Undoubtedly, there’s been a growing number of concerns about the Hunter class changes both in terms of mechanics and aesthetics. I believe that most Hunter players currently agree that a good portion of the tentative changes seem way too drastic, making the Hunter feel like a totally different class than the one we know and love so much. Today, however, I will be talking about a very specific concern which, honestly, has been stirring in my head ever since before Beast Mastery became available for testing in the Alpha. Remember that poll before I wrote about Dark Rangers in Legion?
In the end, I hadn’t wrote about this topic earlier not only because it didn’t seem to be a topic of interest to my followers, but also because I’d decided to wait for the spec to be unlocked for testing and see what it brought to the table by then. It’s difficult to write about Legion Alpha when you don’t have Alpha access, and after I learned that my current laptop doesn’t even meet the mininum system requirements for the new expansion, all of my hopes for Alpha or Beta access have instantly died. But I love this game so I’ll keep the feedback coming in any way I can. And since I am unable to test things myself, I’ll keep focusing on the more aesthetic aspects of the game (such as ‘fantasy’, if you’d like).
But yes, Beast Mastery Hunters.
Overall, the Beast Mastery spec seems indeed to be in a less good position right now, comparing to the majority of other specs and classes. While some of its current issues are already being addressed by the devs, like the new glyph which makes Dire Beast summon beasts directly from our active pets (so glad for that!), there is one big issue that concerns me the most. And that issue, ladies and gentlemen, is Hati.
Disclaimer: possible minor spoilers for Legion lore in and under the following video. Please read at your own risk, or skip a couple of paragraphs.
In ancient times, a vrykul warlord stole a rifle infused with the power of storms. He used the artifact’s might to conquer his rivals on the Broken Isles. Delve into the warlord’s tomb and recover this mighty weapon!
The questline for Titanstrike’s acquisition is one of the coolest I’ve seen so far, if you ask me. It starts with the search for a vrykul warlord’s tomb, whose ambience reminds me of a mix of draugr and dwarven dungeons from TES: Skyrim. Eventually, the quest scenario takes the player back to Ulduar aka the best raid in the history of WoW, where they get to interact with the watchers Mimiron and Thorim (they remember us from WotLK, how cute!). Better yet, they also get to hit the big red button AND ride Mimiron’s Head for a bit. Grif Wildheart, the dwarf who accompanies the player during the questline, is quite amusing as well, especially in his interactions with Mimiron.
*spoilers end here*
Anyway, not wanting to spoil you guys any further, we learn that there is a specific reason to why Hati is connected to the artifact in such a peculiar way. But while the concept in its simplest form can sound pretty neat (aaand maybe a tiny bit of a cliche, too), it makes the ‘fantasy’ of the Beast Master Hunter for Legion feel, in fact, deeply flawed. The Beast Master is supposed to be the beast tamer par excellence, and the way Hati is currently implemented contradicts the principles and ‘fantasy’ so many players have grown fond of during all these years.
The main issues I see with Hati are not related to the overall concept of a secondary guardian pet, but more specifically to the guardian in particular.
- Issue #1: Although lovely, the model looks old and outdated. To be honest this doesn’t bother me as much because I like the saber worg model, but it is a step back from all the neat graphic updates and new creature, zone and gear designs. It makes sense, although, that Hati’s model should match Skoll’s as they are intimately connected to each other. EDIT (07.03.2016): With the latest Alpha build it appears that Hati is indeed getting a facelift.
- Issue #2: A lack of (or poor) customization. Hati is a fundamental element of the Beast Mastery artifact, so it’s only logical that every single BM Hunter will be running around with this spirit worg alongside them and their main pet. Remember the Ashbringer x Aladdin meme? Alas, Light save us if BM gets to be the top Hunter spec in Legion. I know that a few alternative skins for Hati have been datamined and I assume these will change depending on the artifact’s chosen skin, but I honestly doubt these options alone will be close to enough. EDIT (31.05.2016): According to more recent builds there is now an item which allows Hunters to swap Hati’s appearance with one of their pets!
- Issue #3: And here comes the delicate topic. A “forced” fantasy. While the idea of a second pet sounds great to many Hunter players, others would rather just keep the single main one. And between those who like the idea of dual pets, some may not be a fan of Hati or worgs or whatever. But yes… you’ll HAVE to deal with Hati, unless you’d rather play a different Hunter spec. And no, there is not the possibility of the ranged Hunter with a single, loyal pet. Not anymore. EDIT (31.05.2016): Recently and as response to a great amount of feedback on the subject, Marksmanship Hunters have gotten their pet back and Lone Wolf is back to being a talent choice, however a lvl 15 one instead of last tier. And with this, the three issues I present here have been addressed. 😀
I’ve also thought of a few possible solutions to probably solve these issues, or at least lessen them in some way. These being:
- Option #1: Update Hati’s model. EDIT (07.03.2016): already in the works, see above.
- Option #2: Provide the players with more skin options for Hati, as only 4 or 5 choices in total still sound very limiting.
- Option #3: If not, then give the option to change Hati’s appearance to a second pet from the player’s stables. To mix and match- and thus allow them to create their own identity. I know this is ambitious and controversial as Hati is a fundamental part of the artifact and its story, but… this seems indeed to be the most appealing solution at the moment. EDIT (31.05.2016): also addressed, see issue #2.
- Option #4: In last case, make Hati optional in any way. I don’t know, maybe replace one of the current main artifact traits with Hati and limit players to a certain number of unlocked traits at a time. Like a path to choose between the three main traits, instead of eventually unlocking the whole tree. I’m not quite sure if this would really be feasible, but limiting the amount of traits could also be healthy in the way it would provide players with different choices of gameplay. Different styles. Again, customization!
- Option #5: Of course, there is always the ‘deal with it’ option. But I honestly don’t think this is smart as it would, most probably, lead to many players feeling way too conflicted and eventually giving up on the spec or, ultimately, the class itself.
In good news, last week there was a tweet from the WoW devs implying that some big changes to Hati might already be on their way to Alpha.
To be completely honest I have my fingers crossed for the option to allow Hati to take on the form of one of our active pets, because seeing the same creature on every BM Hunter really ruins the beauty and customization this class has always had. After all, the Beast Master deserves to pick their own beasts to share a bond with. I personally look at Nimi Brightcastle in Vol’mar and think it would be pretty cool if Hunters could follow a similar path to hers- but as a choice, not forced by lore and de-homogenization. Anyway, it is good to hear that there are more changes being planned right now. I’ll certainly be on the lookout for that.
Please note that, with this post, I am not trying to overcriticize the work of developers but to try and bring more suggestions and possibilities to the table. The concept of ‘class fantasy’ is very tricky, especially at this point of a game’s life span. More and more, WoW players seek to stand out from the crowd by expressing themselves, creating their own identity, living their own fantasy. Blizzard’s attempt at exploring and reestablishing ‘class fantasy’ puts this at risk, but of course it is not their intention to ruin our experience with our favorite classes- and it’s really dumb to assume otherwise. It is not their fault if our ideas of ‘fantasy’ diverge from theirs, the creators. I believe, however, that this impact could be lessened by making class changes feel less drastic to the players. But furthermore, customization should not only be an important aspect in an aesthetics point of view (like transmog, or choosing a pet to fight with), but also in the outlook of gameplay. I’ll promptly take my hat off if Blizzard manages to bring balance between change and choice. And if not, I will learn to live with it. We all will.
Update #1 (07.03.2016): added a link to Wowhead displaying a newly datamined lightning worg model which is assumed to be replacing Hati’s current one.
Update #2 (31.05.2016): updated the post with information from more recent Alpha and Beta builds, namely changes to Marksmanship Hunters and the possibility to change Hati’s appearance to the player’s liking.